Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Thursday he would make “unmasking” requests to reveal the identity of a U.S. citizen every “couple of weeks” during a more than six-year period.
His comments about unmasking were made to conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, who asked about then-President Barack Obama’s U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power’s testimony in which she said other people had used her name to make unmasking requests.
Mr. Clapper said he did not know how that could happen, and that during his time as DNI director, he would make an unmasking request “once every couple of weeks, something like that, over the six and a half years.”
“I’d come across reports that, and I felt, you know, that it was my duty to understand, my obligation as the director of national intelligence, to understand these interactions when U.S. persons were interacting with valid foreign intelligence targets, particularly Russians, our adversary,” Mr. Clapper said.
Privacy advocates have continuously questioned the number of U.S. citizens who are unmasked by intelligence agencies through surveillance programs such as Section 702 of the Foreign Surveillance Act, which was just recently reauthorized.
Mr. Clapper also belittled former British spy Christopher Steele’s dossier, saying it was not an intelligence document as not all of it had been verified. In the interview with Mr. Hewitt, Mr. Clapper said it was never used as the sole reason to obtain a FISA warrant, which was an allegation made by some members of Congress.
Mr. Clapper also weighed in on Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, saying there’s no way to rule out whether it was compromised by a hostile actor.
“You can’t ever fully rule out to say, you just can’t do that. So they couldn’t find any evidence of it, but that’s not to say it wasn’t exploited,” he said.
• Alex Swoyer can be reached at email@example.com.
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